How does one book TV Commercials? Well, you’ve got to start with training and become a good actor! Master Talent Teacher Carolyne Barry has compiled this video to help take you through the process.
Every weekend Agents and Managers are traveling to some city scouting for new kids and teens for pilot season. The top kids Agents will look at from 100 to 300 kids every week from now through the end of January. These are the brightest kids from around the country with parents who can afford expensive weekend jaunts to L.A. They are ready to come to Hollywood for early Pilot Season, meaning October, November and December. The green lighted projects begin casting these pilots early because they want the best actors – first! Every single top kids Agent and Manager will meet wonderful, cute kids with parents who will do what it takes to make it in Hollywood! The competition is fierce, so what can you do if you are not able to travel to Hollywood? Or, what can you do to compete with the kids and teens coming in if you are already an L.A. actor?
What can you do to help your child or teen compete?
- Encourage your child to build skills on a regular basis by staying in acting classes and private coaching. On-going training is the foundation for a successful Acting career. It essential to be on top of your game so you are ready to shine when you get those big auditions.
- Make sure your child is known to as many casting offices as possible by bringing your child to our Casting Director workshops to develop relationships with casting directors. This also includes sending postcards and booking announcements. Make sure Casting Directors know you are in the game! Developing and nurturing relationships with Casting Directors is vital for success in this industry.
- With early pilot season here and your Agent has over 1000 kids to represent; it is up to you to make sure that you don’t let them forget your child. It is vital to take proactive action by keeping your child on the top of the Agents list. This does not mean that you bombard your representation with unnecessary calls and emails; but keep in touch with them. If there’s a part that you feel you are right for, make sure they are sending you out for it. Don’t get lost in the shuffle.
- Surround yourself with a strong team! This includes your reps, coaches, and family. Without a strong team, you are a lone ranger and not the professional team player it takes to succeed.
The Audition Room
Inside the Audition Room is where all your training as an actor and your preparation come together so that you can do your best and hopefully book the job – OR NOT.
What the heck happens in there that often inhibits us from doing our best? The following audition pointers were formulated from personal audition experience, teaching thousands of students and observing actors who have auditioned at my casting sessions. I truly believe these tips will serve your auditions for commercials as well as TV and film:
- * As you walk into the audition, don’t think about anything you worked on. Let it all go. Be present to whatever happens.
- * Be respectful, positive and professional without losing your personality.
- • Give full attention to the person who is directing you: Don’t be distracted by anyone or anything.
- • When you are being given direction, don’t be figuring out how to do what they are saying. Just listen otherwise, you might miss information.
- • If clarification is needed, ask questions. Questions are only irritating when they are unnecessary. Their answers will help you to do a better audition for them.
- • If they talk to you or ask questions, don’t second-guess what they want to hear. Just talk to them as opposed to trying to impress.
- • If the session director or CD is rude, short-tempered, rushed or seems ambivalent, do not take it personally. Remember, when “the powers that be” watch your video audition, they will only see you, not the irritating session director.
- • Don’t allow yourself to be rushed. Before you start your audition, “get centered.”
- * Breathe, take one or two seconds before beginning or find your own way to “get centered”.
- • Do not speed through your audition. On the other hand, don’t speak really slowly or take long pauses between the lines.
- • Stay focused and don’t allow unexpected incidents to upset you and or put you “in your head.” No matter what happens, go with it and adjust quickly.
- • Motivate toward camera. In on-camera improvised and scripted scene auditions, when possible, find a way to “motivate out” your face, actions and/or dialogue at least fifty percent of the time to maximize your facial exposure.
- • Look into camera when auditioning with a reader and told to do the dialogue looking into the camera, don’t look back and forth between the two.
- • During the read, trust and commit to your instincts. Unless given a specific direction, don’t consciously perform anything you rehearsed or that you have learned. Don’t interrupt your instinctive interpretation trying to perform rehearsed choice. Allow for your read to flow – you will most likely organically do most of what you rehearsed.
- • Have fun. Getting auditions is what you have trained and worked for – now enjoy the experience.
- • When you feel your solo audition was lacking or if you have another interpretation that you would like to do, politely request, “If you have time, I would like to do it again” or “do another interpretation.” If they refuse, say “thank you (mean it) and leave. They may have loved what you did and don’t need or have time for a second version.
- • Don’t ask “needy” questions, e.g., “When are the callbacks or bookings? Should I wear this outfit if I get a callback? Should I keep the script?” Needy inquiries make actors look insecure.
- •Don’t be overly grateful or acknowledging. A simple “thank you” or “it was a pleasure reading for you” is sufficient. Much more might make you look desperate.
- • Unless they insist you leave the audition material, take it. Build a library of sides, copy and scripts that you can use for practice.
- • Let it go. When you finish the audition, those in charge will say “great” or “thank you,” which is your signal to leave. Just do your best, and when you leave, let it go.
Who is there in THAT audition room to help direct actors? Your guide, the person who can help you do your best audition is the Session Director. Watch my video featuring two top session directors and you will learn their insider “do’s” and “don’ts”.
There are dozens of audition technique tips I have given in previous articles and can be found on my partner page on Master TalentTeachers.com that would be really beneficial but right now the most valuable information I can offer to help you to do your best callbacks is offer some insights on Commercial Callback Anxiety.
Commercial auditions can be challenging for actors but callbacks are a cause of anxiety for most. The pressure is on because the decisions-makers are in the room, you know that everything little thing you do is being carefully judged, changes of direction are sometimes made at the last minute giving actors very little time to be secure with the adjustments, the money that you can make if you booked the commercial is often needed, and because it is a callback, the pressure you put on yourself to do well can be problematic.
Every audition especially callbacks are a precious opportunity to work, make money, create contacts and fans and move a career forward. When actors fixate on these expectations before auditioning, it normally creates anxiety and pressure. Don’t focus on disempowering thoughts and questions, such as:
Did I wear the right outfit? Maybe I should have done something different with my hair. Did I work on the material enough? I hope they don’t notice that my skin is broken out. How many people will I be auditioning for? Who are they? Will they direct me before I read? What will they ask me? What should I ask them? Will they think I am physically right for the role? I wonder if the reader is going to be any good? I haven’t seen this CD for a few months – maybe she doesn’t like my work. How will I do? Will they re-direct my reading? Am I right for the role? What will they think about my audition?
Many of these thoughts flash quickly through almost every actor’s mind and especially those who are new. These are the same types of concerns that people usually have interviewing for any job. At callbacks, because the stakes are raised, the concerns get more intense for most. Actors who are unfazed at the initial audition often have callback anxiety. Now, the thoughts are
They must like me; now the pressure is really on. It’s only betweena few others and me; I have to be great. Will my agent (or manager) dump me if I don’t book this job? What did I do that made them call me back? I really need the money. My competition must be good. I hope I don’t “blow it” now. And so on.
This “brain-noise” is normal. How you deal with your questions, concerns and expectations will determine how much power those thoughts have. You must learn how to alleviate, use or quiet them, or they will take their toll on your work. I know great actors who can’t get out of their heads at interviews (and refuse to do anything about it), and their work suffers. I also know less talented ones who shine because they have very little “noise” and are excited to be auditioning.
What you think influences how you feel, and how you feel impacts your audition. With time and experience, actors usually figure out how to alleviate the self-imposed stress. In the meantime, work on your audition anxieties whether it is with self-help books, hypnosis, audition classes, coaching, therapy, talking with friends or teachers and/or developing a sense of humor about your disempowering thoughts – the sooner the better.
SUGGESTION: What you think produces feelings. The feelings are real but the thoughts you created are not real. So be careful what you are saying to yourself.
For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com and for more information on Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/
You Are the Character
By: Carolyne Barry
Actors are trained to play characters. From when you first began to train, the focus was on developing and being true to the character. With theater, film and television work, the actor’s responsibility is to bring them to life. I believe it is different for commercials. Commercials are very short and the roles portrayed are targeted at a specific segment of the population. There is no time to establish a character in the majority of commercials. In a few seconds, it has to be clear whom the actors represent and their roles. Those watching must see a semblance of themselves in order to identify and be motivated to buy the product. This is why physical types and essences are almost as important as talent in commercial casting.
If you don’t play characters, how do you prepare? I strongly suggest approaching the parts as ROLES YOU play. You play numerous roles in your life? i.e: Employee, boss, friend, spouse or significant other, child, parent, neighbor, student or teacher, working person or professional, etc.
Many of these parts featured in commercials, are roles you are or have played in your life. (Those for which you are physically right but haven’t experienced should also be doable with a little work.) Approach your auditions using your feelings and reactions. Focus on how YOU would behave or react in the given situation not a character you create. It is easier, faster and you’ll have better results when starting with the premise that “You are the Character playing a role”.
The audition begins for the viewers when the actor walks into the audition room. That first impression of the actor can determine whether the viewers want to take 3 minutes to read the actor – or not. They want to see a confident actor who is focused, prepared, and ready for the audition. They want an actor to take control of the room and make eye contact as they say “Hello”. They want the actor to solve their problem of needing to cast this part and, believe it or not, they are rooting for the actor. But, if the actor walks into the room looking down, mumbling, and looking like a deer in the headlights, the viewers will assume this is either an actor who is very nervous, unprepared or inexperienced. They have tuned you out and don’t want to bother reading you even before you say your first line.
The audition begins for the actor when they are in the lobby; BEFORE they walk into the audition room. Walking through the door should be “part of the act”….acting the part of a confident actor… even if they don’t feel confident. If the actor does not feel confident, they should fake confidence: “Fake It Till You Make It”. As you walk from the waiting room into the audition room, treat it as if you are going from the wings of a theater onto the stage. Get into your zone, bubble, mental focus…whatever you call it…and begin your audition as you walk through the audition door, a confident actor taking control of the room.
Behavior influences thought. If an actor feels nervous or unprepared before walking into the audition room, they should try imitating a confident walk or assume a confident stance. The “feeling” of confidence in the body fakes the mind into “feeling” confident. So when the actor is waiting in the lobby, before their name is called, their mental focus should be that of an athlete…focused and ready to walk into the room.
As the actor walks into the audition room, they should make eye contact and say “Hello”, entering the room in a hybrid state…NOT in character…but focused and ready to go. If an actor chooses to walk into the room “in character”, it can backfire in a big way. The part the actor is auditioning for could be described as a jerk, a drug addict or arrogant. If you say “Hello” as the character would say “Hello”…not as yourself…it is possible the viewers will think you are really a jerk, a drug addict or arrogant. I have seen this happen during my years as a Casting Director, and the actor needs to remember that just the act of saying “Hello”, may be the only moment that shows they are an OK human being who will show up on time if cast, be civil to their fellow actors, and will learn their lines.
The actor should take control of the room and make it their space for 3 minutes. A chair is usually provided for the actor to use if they would like, and moving the chair to where the actor would like it to be, is a great way to take control of the room. Right off the bat the viewers can see the actor has made choices and is prepared. Five seconds should be taken before the audition begins so the actor can make the transition from walking into the room… into the scene itself. The viewers also need this transition time before they watch the scene, so if chit-chat happens, taking five seconds helps everyone have a moment to adjust. There are four tools the actor should use during these five seconds to help with this transition…
(1) Sense Of Place: Where does the scene take place
(2) Relationship: Who is the character talking to in the scene, and how does the character feel about that person
(3) Intention: What does the character want at the top of the scene
(4) Pre-Beat: What happens the moment before the scene starts
Once the scene gets going, the actor should LISTEN to the reader! This is the best tool an actor can use in an audition. “Listening” grounds the actor in the scene instead of anticipating what their next line will be. If an actor is not “listening”, the viewers can see it…they will know that the actor is not “present” in the scene. The last tool in the actor’s audition arsenal, is RESPOND IN THE LISTENING. Most Television and Film auditions are put on tape, and the viewers of the audition tape only see a close up of the actor…they don’t see the reader. It is very important that an actor genuinely “listen” and “respond in the listening”, so when the viewer watches the tape, they can see the thoughts going through the actors head …they see an actor who is present and in the moment of the scene.
Walking into the room is a skill that can be mastered with a confident mind set and the use of simple audition tools. The actor should walk into the audition room as an athlete would walk onto the field, dive into the pool, or step onto the mound. Having the mental focus of an athlete will help the actor conquer the first step in the audition process…walking into the audition room.
I wanted to cover the topic, “What Does An Actor Do Once They Get An Audition?” From the point of view of a Casting Director, I see your picture and resume and decide to call you in for an audition. I know that each actor has their own process about how they prepare for an audition, but I’m not in the actor’s shoes.
So, I thought the best way to cover this topic was to go directly to some of the actors in my Audition Workshops and see what their tips are…
JD FERRANTINO: I get the sides and read it and read it and decide who the character is…searching for clues and hints and the gems the writer has given me. I decide what the moment is before the scene starts, where the scene takes place, who I am talking to…what my relationship is to this person…and what my intention is.
Often you don’t get a full script, only a breakdown is given describing the character. The breakdown is often very vague, so I need to mine the scene for clues.
NOSHIR DALAL: I often don’t quite get the tone of the scene or script, and one thing I’ve really been doing lately, is to look on IMDB (International Movie Data Base) to see who the writer of the script is. I see other things the writer has written, which helps me get a feel and tone for this script. I also look to see who the Producers of the show are as well, which can also give clues as to what the tone is.
SHARON MUTHU: I read the sides first, and if there is a script, I read that later to see where my character fits. When I first look at the sides I get a “gut” reaction about what’s happening and who the character is. So, when I then read the full script I will compare and contrast to see if my overall intention is right.
I’m one of those actors who tends to be over analytical…and then I could end up sabotaging myself.
JOSH LATZER: Most times when I get an audition, I’ll leave it alone unless it is the next day. I don’t like to over think it. But, I do prepare. Part of my preparation is that I read both parts out loud. I always work by myself, and it helps to hear the other characters lines out loud so you aren’t hearing them for the first time when in the audition room.
I try to trust my instincts.
BETHANY MANGUM: If I read the breakdown and it is nothing like me…like an Asian character and I am a Caucasian…I think, hmmmm…why did they call me in? Then I think…Why not me? The Casting Director called me in for the part, so maybe I can change their minds about it.
I read the sides, but do my best not to read the character description. Because I’ve done a lot of Theatre, I like to base my choices on text only. What is the writer giving you? Then I’ll read the breakdown, and if the description matches my choices then great….and if not…? I like to go with my “gut”, because that can change their minds. Have them re-write it for me!
BEN STILLWELL: First, I figure out how much time I have with it, and may give it a little less thought then if I had the audition the next day. If given a script and sides, I will read the script first and see how my character fits. Then I read the sides.
I figure out what Network it is for. I have messed up on that before. I have treated it like it was a FOX audition when it was a DISNEY audition and it was totally the wrong move.
MICHAEL GREBE: You should always prepare everything as if you were right for it. You can’t tell yourself you are not right, ever, because…who knows? I could go in and they say “Alright…I like that…the dimples and blue eyes!”
KAITLYN REED: I like to start really small. I work on bringing me as much as possible to the character. I tend to match breakdowns pretty spot on…so I might look at it and say, “This is so much like me, maybe there is something I’m missing.” I try to trust that it IS me, and that it’s fine.
Where in here can I make things me.
I will read the script later…I always go to great lengths to find it if I don’t have it…but, I like to start small and go through each moment.
For me, the relationship is the big thing, that and the moment before. When I get into the room…if things start to go out the window…even if I don’t know where I am, if I know where I am coming from and who I am talking to, I pretty much can’t go wrong.
HOLLY POWELL: Every actor has their own process on how to prepare for an audition. But, take this advise from a former Casting Director…PREPARE, DON’T WING IT. I once had an actress in one of my Audition Workshops who told me that she never worked on an audition, because she liked to keep it spontaneous and fresh. And I said to her… “How’s that been working out for you?”